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The song that made me change my mind!

Is this the worst piece of creativity I have ever had the misfortune of watching/hearing? Undoubtedly!

You have to wonder about the state of the recording industry and fame in general when a song with lyrics like,”One good girl is worth a thousand b**ches. BAM! BAM!” and “She asked me what I wish for on my wishlist. Have you ever asked your b**ch for other b**ches?” has received 6942810 hits on YouTube. With a half-naked woman, famous for simply being famous, astride a motorbike in the video clip, there is a question whether the youtube visits have been for the song of for the half-nakedness, but even that is concerning.

What is this saying about fame and art?

Here we have a famous rap artist serving up a song which, to my ear, not a single moment of artistic worthiness, with a video of similar pap. And now 7107793 have watched it! That is 165000 more views in the time it has taken me to type this post. That is BONKERS!

Again, what is this saying to our students about fame and art?

Another line in the song caught my attention… “I wanna f*** you hard on the sink. After that give you something to drink. Step back, can’t get spunk on the mink.” REALLY! What the hell is this? If this is songwriting then something has gone terribly wrong! Terribly, TERRIBLY WRONG!!!

Now, up until today I have always been one to argue that all music is there to be appreciated. There is no such thing as bad music, just music that I don’t prefer to listen to. Well, today I have changed my mind.

I’m going to, for the first time ever, go on the record and condemn this song as an insult to music, an insult to anyone who has the misfortune of having it crawl into their ears, and a complete insult to the notion of creativity.

And then, as I sit back and try to scrape the refrains of the inane and sad self flagellatory words out of my ears I am actually inspired!

If this is now what passes for popular music, there is hope for us all, even my daughter, who is 6. The songs she sings in the bath are better than this s*** any day!!!!!

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Really?

I was going through a few apps I have been using of late to write a blog post or two and found this one languishing in the “finish me and let me out” box. So, nearly three months later, here is one that I cobbled together after a trip away.

September: Having spent a most amazing week away from home in the bosom of Scottish and English family and friends, I am now returning to Saudi Arabia, to reconnect with my beautiful wife and daughter and to get back into the grind of daily life.

I have lived in Saudi for four years and have truly been privileged to live and work within a culture that is so intriguing, unknown and present. There are many elements of that culture that are familiar. There are many that are different. There are a few that truly disturb me.

I am flying with the national airline, Saudia Airlines, and as with any major airline, there is in-flight entertainment to take ones mind off the hours that slowly tick by. The usual fare of Hollywood hits are up for selection and again, as with other major airlines, are modified in format and content to suit the average airline passenger. And it is these modifications that have brought me to the point where I am putting something down.

An action packed and suspenseful R-rated movie has just helped me over Italy, across the Mediterranean and into Egypt and was modified considerably through the use of blurring images on the screen that were not to be seen. Were they the graphic scenes of people getting their heads blown off? Was it the gruesome strangulation scene that I couldn’t watch? Was it the blood-spattering head-beaten-to-a-pulp scene? Was it the female protagonist being beaten and dragged by her hair?

No.

It was the bare skinned shoulder of the female protagonist. It was the small scantily clad rubinesque alabaster statue on the mantlepiece in the background of the scene where one bad guys brains were splattered all over the face of another bad guy. It was the bare knees to ankles of two female extras walking through the background of the head-beaten-to-a-pulp scene.

Really?

I mean… REALLY?

This is the element of this culture that I find truly disturbing.

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Hello Mr Knox!

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I’m sitting in the transit lounge (read: Bar) of Abu Dhabi airport, on my way home from Seoul, Sth Korea where I spent yesterday (I had to think about that) visiting with the school where I will become the Elementary Principal next academic year. The events of the past 48 hours (and the half litre of stunningly delicious Hoegaarten) have caused me to stop and think… and pen this small treatise on being yourself.

I have never been an Elementary Principal before. I have worked with quite a few. Some good. Some bad. Some incredible. I’ve worked as an Elementary Teacher for many years. I’ve Worked with elementary teachers for many, many years. I’ve worked as a member of a school administrative team for a shorter number of years. But… I’ve never been an Elementary Principal.

Last year, when I began flouting my wares to prospective suitors (read: began applying for positions as an Elementary Principal), I felt I was punching above my weight. Hi, I’m Bruce. I’ve never been an Elementary Principal, but if you let me I will give it a shot. Not surprisingly, the number of suitors prepared to give me a shot was overwhelmingly underwhelming. I returned from the job fair in Kuala Lumpur feeling somewhat dejected, questioning my ambition, my creds to make the jump, my desire to even attempt.

I hunkered down, chalked it up to experience and got on with the job of doing my job, which was NOT an elementary principal.

The moons turned, a year passed and I found myself once again contemplating making the jump. I brushed up the CV, penned a solid letter of application, whipped up a “Philosophy of Leadership” (whatever that was) and sent it to a good friend for some feedback. SLAMMED! “Where are YOU?” was the comment that sat me up, splashed water in my face and delivered a swift backhand.

Me? Where am I? What was she talking about? “Be yourself” was the continued summary. “You have a lot to offer, but you have to be YOU. Anyone can talk about passion-for-this and passion-for-that, but no one else can be you.” “Be YOU.”

There are things that are easier done than said, and for me, being ME is one of them. It is very easy for me to BE me. Writing as ME was something I had not really considered in the context of writing job applications. So I did, or at least I tried. It took some effort. I wrote, and deleted, and reread and wrote and deleted and reread and deleted and finally was happy with what was staring at me so sent that off (to my same confidant) who simply replied with “Hello Mr Knox!”

Having just spent a solid 12 hours at the school where next year I will be given the responsibility of leading the Elementary school, I took heed of the advice given me not so long ago, and just focussed on being me. I sat with the Elementary staff and responded to their questions, asked out of a deep concern for the students in their classrooms, the colleagues in their halls and for the development of their school, and tried to be ME.

I think it went pretty well, but then, that’s just ME talking. I know there is a considerable space between what I spoke about yesterday and what I will do on July 2014 when I have to do the walking as well. But if there is anything to be learned from these recent experiences, there are two things. Everyone needs someone to tell them just to be themselves. And there is a certain amount of courage needed to do it.

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From a bass guitar to discarding a curriculum!

17 years ago I took my bass guitar in for a repair and it came back not quite right. It took me a while to realise, but the wiring had been finished incorrectly and the battery (making my active bass work) continually drained, rather than only draining when a cable was plugged in. The work-around has been, for the last seventeen years, to unscrew the back of the guitar, pull out the battery, connect it up, put it back in and rescrew the plate on – EVERY TIME I PLAYED THE GUITAR!

Until today!

I fixed it. Myself*

*with a lot of help from YouTube and a Bass Guitar forum. But I did the fixing.

What a sense of ACCOMPLISHMENT the other night when I pulled the guitar from its case, plugged in and began playing for the first gig of my newly formed band, the “Iqama Chameleons”. I felt like announcing it to the rest of the band. “Did you SEE that??? I just plugged in and played!!! Fantastic isn’t it!?!” It would simply have confirmed their already growing suspicions that I am a little bit crazy!

And then I got to thinking… why did I put up with that for 17 years!

Well, for a start, 17 years ago YouTube didn’t exist. The internet (as I know it today) didn’t exist. I didn’t know any electricians who worked on the electronics of guitars, and the guy who made the mess of it in the first place had packed up his business pretty soon after I had been to him and disappeared. I didn’t know any other bass players who might have been able to show me a thing or two about the inner workings. I had me and a local library.

The screwdriver and the constant open-up-and-connect-it-all scenario seemed to be the easiest solution at the time!

Now things are different. I searched for a website that had listed a similar problem to mine. I found a handfull and read through them all. I discarded four and stayed with one forum where the description of what I was faced with most closely matched. I did a YouTube search for someone who might have taken the time to explain the issue in a video, and sure enough, there was another handful of gents talking me through what might amount to a fix.

So not wanting to dive in and fry my very nice Fender P-Bass Lyte, I thought I would clarify things and on the forum I had found by briefly describing my issue, the resources I had discovered in my research and what I believed to be my solution. My question for the forum, was, “Am I on the right track?”

BOOM! MrBassMan replied within 20 minutes to confirm I had done my research well, and with a couple of slight tweaks, would have my funky bass lines ringing out in no time.

That was the “What to do”. Next was the “How to do”.

Again, YouTube was the answer. Search, review, refine, review, refine, watch, rewind, rewatch, rewind, re-rewatch, pause, deep breath. Do! Plug in and test. BINGO! Funky bass lines coming at me out of the amplifier!

What. A. Sense. Of. Accomplishment!

And then I thought about the students at my school…

How often is their learning at my school packaged like this? How often do students get to the end of something and have to restrain themselves from jumping on their desk and shouting to the world, “DID YOU SEE WHAT I JUST DID!!!!!!” My daughter is 6 and is learning to read right now. I see it in her eyes when she decodes a new word, sounds it out, mutters to herself the sounds, thinks and then realises what the word is. She has that look in her eyes. That look of “WOW! I JUST READ A NEW WORD!” She runs to me or her Mother and leaps about with excitement. “DADDY, I JUST READ “happy”! DADDY, THIS SAYS “happy”!!!”

If you are a teacher, how often are you working with your students with this as a goal? How often do you plan to begin your next unit of instruction with a challenge that is immediately daunting, challenging and seemingly impossible? How often is the summative assessment so naturally satisfying that there is no option but to succeed? Is it actually possible to do this with a school curriculum? If it is not, are we really teaching the right thing?

Big questions!

I’m not sure I have the answers, but like my bass guitar experience, I know there is a bunch of people out there thinking the same thing, facing the same challenges and making efforts to address them.

I can’t wait to find them!

 

 

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It’s amazing what a difference a year makes!

Started: Dec 31, 2012…

I have always liked the saying, “Jump and the net will appear”. It exemplifies both my approach to life and my approach to teaching. Never having been satisfied with just getting by, I have always striven to learn new things, start new things without knowing how they will end, head off to distant destinations without really being sure how I will get back and generally trust that I can learn my way into and back out of everything I do. This approach has served me extremely well and has led me into classrooms across the globe, learning as much as I teach, and teaching as much as I learn. But now I am beginning to question my philosophy.

Correction. Not necessarily the philosophy, but more the strength of the net.

Some jumps you take hardly require a net. I’m going to purchase a clarinet that I don’t know how to play and I am going to learn to play it. No net required here. I’m going to ask a beautiful woman to marry me. Strong emotional net required. We’re going to start a family. Large net of unknown strengths required. I am going to relocate my family overseas. Large net required again.

Which brings me to the driver behind today’s musings.

I am currently contemplating uprooting my family from a very good school, where my wife and I have very good jobs, where our lifestyle is very good and our income is similarly very good. That is the “from” in the uprooting scenario. The “To” in the scenario is directly proportionate to the size and strength of the net required should we go ahead and jump.

The current “To” is a place yet to be determined, with a job yet to be determined, with a salary yet to be determined. Do I have some direction as to what those so-far-undetermined aspects should look like? Of course. But what I want them to be doesn’t necessarily mean that is how they will be. Enter the net.

To date, I don’t think I have contemplated a leap that requires a net of such size and strength, and it is this point that is prompting me to question my philosophy and step back from the edge. It is this hesitation to jump that is new for me. It is this hesitation to jump that is causing me all sorts of turmoil. The constant swing from wanting to feel the rush of the wind as I fall headlong into what will be, to the reassuring feeling of my the sand between my toes.

Continued: Jan 16, 2013…

So two weeks later I am no closer to knowing if I should don the lycra tights and cape or roll out the beach towel and enjoy the sun!

Continuing: Nov 16, 2013…bruce diving

And so I have jumped, the net has appeared, and it is strong!

A very good friend of mine said, “Isn’t it amazing what a difference a year makes!” While it has only been ten months since my last effort on this blog post, it has been a year since I first seriously prepared for the big leap. One year ago I wasn’t ready, and at the time, I didn’t really know. Now, one year later, I know what it feels like to know, and that has made all the difference.

I have leapt into the realm of the unknown and trusted there was a net. And lo and behold, the net appeared. Lifestyle, job, salary. All woven in.

Life is quite good sometimes!

Thanks for stopping by to check out the blog! If you would like to receive an update each time there is a new post, just add your email in below. Thanks, Bruce.

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